By Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet
If you want to contribute a question to ‘ask the rabbi’, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
My upset over mum’s jewels
My beloved mother sadly passed away almost a decade ago, insisting I and not anyone else inherit her jewellery.
By mistake, my father gave part of it to my brother’s wife, who refuses to return it to me on the pretext it belongs to the grandchildren (boys) and their future spouses.
My father regretted his decision, asking me repeatedly if I wanted him to talk to my brother and the family solicitor to ensure I get it back, but as he was ill and frail I assured him I would deal with it in due course and after his passing.
Thinking my brother would comply with my wish to give me my mother’s jewellery, I generously let him keep most of our parents’ belongings, which they would have strongly objected to, as indeed did the solicitor, who has repeatedly insisted it is shared equally between us.
I’m utterly bereft and distraught my late mother’s jewellery was not given to me seeing as it was her wish and special sentimental bond between us.
What’s your view?
First, I am sorry for the loss of both your dear parents.
I am also sorry that this loss is compounded by the loss of jewellery, which more than anything denies you a sentimental connection with your late mother.
What is perfectly obvious is that no will was drawn up, since otherwise you would have the necessary piece of paper with which to challenge your brother in court.
So from a strictly Jewish perspective, without a will, you have nothing to go on and to all intents and purposes, your brother certainly has rights to the assets.
Further, you say you gave your brother most of your parents’ belongings as you thought he would comply with giving you the jewellery back. Did he say so? Did he sign a contract to that effect? Did he at least declare as such in front of the solicitor? Or was it just your assumption?
If he did so indicate, you might have that to work with. If not and you only presumed so, then I dare say from both a halachic and legal perspective you are going to have a hard time, especially as your father himself – who was the immediate heir of the jewellery – gave your brother some of it.
The only thing you might still be able to claim against is some of the other possessions, which the solicitor urged you to divide equally. He may be able to attest to the fact that you turned down your share on the grounds that you were expecting something in return and as that was not received, you should be entitled to reclaim some of the other assets.
It is all rather complex and I am giving you something of a halachic perspective. Consult a good lawyer with whatever proof you have and see what he makes of it. But more than anything, have you had a conversation with your brother?
Your brother’s wife certainly has no say or any business in the matter, and grandchildren don’t have any rights here, either. But maybe your brother, away from the clutches of his wife, might see reason and reconsider.
Most importantly, you need also to ask yourself, all things considered, are you going to let this break up the family? What is quite clear is that though your mother passed away a decade ago, you are still grieving for her and the jewellery saga only exacerbates that grief.
But there are things even bigger than all that and you need to consider what sort of value you put on family. A woman once came to the Lubavitcher rebbe complaining about the terrible fight she was having with her mother over money.
The rebbe looked to her and said: “I lost my mother earlier this year. Do you know how much money I would give to have my mother back with me, even if only for a short while? And you – you are letting money tear you and your mother apart.”
Replace mother with brother and hopefully come to the right conclusions.
Messiah won’t bring back rex
Some time ago my dog died and she was cremated with the remains buried in two places. When the Messiah comes, will my dog come back as one?
Not as one, and not as two, either. If you believe in the concept of a Messiah and the concept of the resurrection of the dead, you’ll also appreciate that Rex, Rover, Buster and Bingo won’t be coming back, either. I’m afraid they’ll just have to remain in doggie heaven for all eternity.
A convert may now marry out
I recently went through the long process of conversion to Judaism. However, I’ve since met a non-Jewish man who I’m considering marrying. What should I do? Does this make me a hypocrite?
No, it doesn’t make you a hypocrite.
It makes you an idiot.
Now go do the moral thing, give back your conversion certificate and embrace the life you were meant to live – as a non-Jew, and not the sham you chose to live, for God knows what reasons.